Your pain is your responsibility.
About 5 years ago I was in a car accident. I was driving back from a hike with some friends and we were t-boned on the driver side. We all walked away, seemingly okay, which I am thankful for every single day.
I was later diagnosed with whiplash and soft tissue damage; my physiotherapist told me I should be better in 6 weeks, because I was already fairly strong and in good shape.
At the time of the accident I was working out 3-5 days a week kickboxing, running, and doing bodyweight exercises. I was also working as a kickboxing instructor leading a very active lifestyle. It seemed like I would recover quickly based off of that.
Six weeks came and went and I wasn’t any better. I developed TMJ, a common injury with whiplash. My workouts were non-existent, and it took everything in me to get through the day. This lasted the better part of three years.
I experimented with different exercises, intensities, stretches, and treatment, but nothing seemed to work. I couldn’t cook dinner or clean my house without winding up on the coach in tears or taking multiple rest breaks. Doctors finally told me it was chronic pain and was left at that. No one had any answers for how long I would need to deal with the pain or if my life would ever be the same again.
I fell into depression and my anxiety increased. I gained about 20lbs and felt absolutely horrible about myself. I became a victim to my diagnosis, a victim to my pain.
I remember asking “why me?”, what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t heal or improve even slightly?
I left my job as a kickboxing instructor because I just couldn’t manage it anymore. I started working in an office, and my depression worsened. My relationship suffered. My finances suffered. My ability to show up as the person I wanted to be suffered. My outlook on life took a nasty turn and I was miserable. I hated looking in the mirror or having my picture taken, I was absolutely disgusted with my body and my mindset. I felt stuck, unable to move forward with my life.
Around the 3 year mark I decided it was time to settle with my insurance company. All my doctors told me this was as good as I would get. Chronic pain is a very broad term, as you can imagine.
I was tired of living as a miserable shell of myself, tired of letting pain dictate my life. I decided to finally take control of my situation and hired a personal trainer for 3 months. When we sat down to go over my goals, I started with the typical “I want to lose weight”, except I didn’t. I’ve never cared about my weight, but I do care about how I feel, and I was tired of feeling like shit. So, instead of focusing on how I looked, I focused on getting stronger. I focused on managing my pain better.
I made a commitment to myself to stop looking in the mirror and taking progress pictures, to stop speaking negatively to and about myself. I stopped worrying that I would never get back to what I was before and started focusing on what I could do moving forward, what I could control.
I committed to showing up for myself. I followed through with the exercises my trainer gave me. I followed through with the goals I set for myself and stopped worrying about how I looked. I focused on how I felt and the thoughts I was thinking.
I started changing the dialog from “I’ll never be the same” to “I’m getting stronger every day”.
I stopped beating myself up when I would experience a flare up.
I stopped feeling sorry for myself.
At the end of our three months we re-measured and took pictures. I don’t remember how much weight I lost or how different my pictures looked, but I do remember how much better I felt about myself.
I had gotten stronger. My painful flareups went from happening almost daily to just a couple times a month. I could look at myself in the mirror without disgust.
These changes wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t decided to take control. If I had stayed a victim of my pain and diagnosis, I wouldn’t be where I am today, I would probably still be feeling miserable about my situation.
Taking control of what I can control (attitude and effort) opened me up to change.
Now, almost 3 years later, if I do overdo it and experience a flare up, I don’t allow it to ruin my day or week. I don’t allow it to derail my progress, I don’t allow myself to give up, because I know that it is under my control. I might not be able to control my pain, but I can control how I view it.
I decide how my pain will affect me. I am not a victim to my pain.
PS: If you’ve experienced an injury that has taken over your life and don’t know how you’ll ever get through it, let me know. I know how mentally exhausting chronic pain is, I understand how it can negatively affect your mind and outlook on life. I would love to help you get through your pain stronger than before.